The Music Blog: Reflections

For the first eight years of my life we lived in a 3 bedroom house in North Richland Hills. The house was small but in my memories it seemed so big because of course I am remembering it as an 8 year old or even younger. That time period, those first 8 years seem so idyllic to me. We would move to a bigger house, a new house and from that point on it seemed it was all about keeping up with the Joneses or whoever. Those first 8 years where my parents struggled a bit but always fed us, and the neighbors all looked out for each other was really the happiest time of my youth. At night we would sit in the living room, sparsely furnished, and watch television. I always think of that television as a black and white television but it might have been a color television. A lot of what we watched were variety shows because those were popular and would remain so through most of the 70’s.

There was one show that I loved, one variety show that I never wanted to miss. When the host was on other shows I didn’t miss those either. I would get as close to the television as my parents would allow. She was always smiling, always laughing and she was beautiful. She was my first crush. She was beautiful too, and in the 60s and early 70’s in Texas I didn’t even consider that she was a black woman. I just saw her as a Supreme.

When I found out much later that Michael Jackson had a crush on her I totally understood. If I hear a song today, bam I am 8 years old again trying to get as close to the television as my parents would allow. The Supremes always had those form fitting dresses to give a boy thoughts. No wonder I had a crush. It was more than just their appearance it was those songs and those great vocals that only could come from Motown. They had hits galore. I slowly moved onto other musical crushes still have a few, my latest being Zola Jesus but that’s another blog entirely.

In 1988 America and Americans had finally embraced the Vietnam war and realized that a great wrong had been done to the soldiers who fought. They had been blamed for being soldiers for being wounded, called names and discarded. America was now embracing them. In 1988 the show China Beach premiered on television. I loved it for many reasons but mostly because it dealt with the dark edges of war in general and was mostly told from the perspective of the nurses who gave everything to save the lives of soldiers wounded in horrible ways. The opening song of that show was Reflections a song by Diana Ross and the Supremes. It is my favorite song from the Supremes maybe not as well known as others but it was so perfect for a show that was looking back on a war that was horrible and ugly. I didn’t always watch the show but if I was around even if I was about to walk out the door I would stop when I heard those opening notes and I was 8 years old again. So you will have to indulge me if I swoon a little over Diana, that smile, that laugh and that amazing voice and the songs that she and Mary and Florence sang. I still love them they still make me smile.

Now about Zola Jesus

Yeah I know we will wait on her or you can check her out early.

Mike out

The Music Blog: The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in History

The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in History. That is a bold statement. That statement covers some ground, covers some sub-genres and without doubt will create an argumentative air. Seriously though, despite your love for whatever band and trust me I love a lot of bands there is still only one band that could claim that title, which even should claim that title. Maybe you don’t like Mick Jagger, or maybe you believe the hype that Keith Richards is some drug addled overrated guitarist. That is personal though. With music sometimes the hardest thing to do is be objective, to remove the emotional and personal from the equation. Yet, music is emotional and it does drive passion. So again, maybe you don’t like them, or as someone said when I mentioned the band recently eew gross, they really cannot be denied.

Ever since I was a child I have heard that question, you know the one Beatles or Stones? It’s a stupid question for a lot of reasons. One, we have both so why do I or anyone have to pick just one. I love the Beatles but to me they are a clinical band, a band that was able to create and perform in the vacuum of a studio. They are likely the most creative band that ever recorded a song. They gave up touring and they were probably right to do so at the time given they could not even hear themselves sing. By the late 60s though they could have returned but chose not to. The Rolling Stones were a touring rock band and they continue to tour. Past their prime? Maybe. I hope they keep going. After they are gone, and Aerosmith there just are not a lot of those great rock and roll bands left and what passes for rock music nowadays is something less, way less.

I have not always loved the Rolling Stones. I didn’t own albums from the band growing up. I liked them though, quite a lot. Like the Beatles they always had a song playing on the radio and it seems I have always known their songs. When I was in my teens but before I could drive we used to ride around on our bikes really able to go anywhere and as boys do we sometimes got into trouble. The thing about getting in trouble is that you always need a place to run, a place to hide. Sometimes we ended up at a hole in the wall hang out called Sir and Sons. There you could play pinball or bumper pool. It was mostly for an older crowd but no one ever bothered us there. It seems I always ran into people who knew my sister who was almost four years older than me or sometimes we ran into friends of my friend’s brother. I can’t remember ever being there without hearing Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Tumbling Dice or Honkly Tonk Woman. It seems one of those songs was always playing. We would play bumper pool and sing those songs. I could not tell you why I didn’t own an album from the band. I just didn’t.

In the mid 80s I gave up on Rock and Roll to listen to R&B. I loved the singers but I stayed in touch with rock and roll doings and I still followed a couple of bands I liked. I had almost resolved myself to forever leaving the genre but hip hop was already starting to negatively influence R&B and Rock and Roll seemed doomed to a sea of spandex and hairspray. Then in 1989 my faith in Rock and Roll was restored and it wasn’t by early grunge it was by the old guys the Rolling Stones. In 1989 the Rolling Stones released the album Steel Wheels and I was hooked. It was good old fashioned straight ahead rock music they way I liked it. Not long after buying that album I bought Sticky Fingers and my love for the Rolling Stones began. That love would grow and grow.

Their shows have become really productions now and some of this is because of age. They can’t rock it like they used to and that’s to be expected. I get that many take opportunity to bash Richards and Jagger but those types of bashing are not based on any fact.  Keith Richards has not done hard drugs in an incredibly long time and the time he spent doing hard drugs was relatively short compared to some other rock stars. Recently I read he gave up drinking entirely. I have always been fascinated with guitarist lists of who the greatest is but up until about 15 years ago you would not have found Richards’ name on one of those lists. Now many can see him with an objective eye and understand just how much he has created and done.  Mick Jagger has never been a great singer but being a front man is all about entertainment and he is a master at entertaining the crowds and he created the standards for which front men are measured. He is still a great showman and I would say has gotten more out of his voice than any other singer.  Bill Wyman now retired was always steady. Ron Wood is the greatest side man in the history of music and the interplay between he and Richards is seamless. Charlie Watts is the glue that holds it all together. There is no Rolling Stones without him, yet he performs with the smallest drum kit of any drummer ever. He is not flashy and he doesn’t have to be. He does not need a 100 piece drum kit to be great. All these different parts just work together to make this incredible wonderful whole.  There is no other band like them, no band even close.

So buckle up and turn the volume up.

Mike out